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More witnesses for ‘death squad’ case

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iol news pic Cato Manor Cops bailed

File photo: The State has alleged that the 18 cops accused of running a hit squad, planted unlicenced guns next their victims corpses. Picture:Sandile Ndlovu

Durban - More witnesses to the crimes allegedly committed by the Durban organised crime unit at Cato Manor have come forward, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate said on Tuesday.

IPID spokesman Moses Dlamini said he could not provide any details on the witnesses or how many.

“(But) “lots of those people have come forward since the bail application seeking witness protection”.

The 18 people who have been accused of hit squad activities face 71 charges which include 14 of murder, 14 of unlawful possession of ammunition, 14 of unlawful possession of firearms, and four of house-breaking.

They were arrested last Wednesday by a joint Hawks and IPID task team and were released on bail of R5000 each last Friday.

Magistrate Sharon Marks ordered them to report each Friday to their nearest police station and also ordered them not to contact any witnesses.

Dlamini said could not say to which cases the new evidence related as he did not want to prejudice the State's case.

“For them (the witnesses who have come forward) the fear is quite palpable,” said Dlamini.

During the bail hearing last week, the State claimed witnesses were afraid and had been threatened by the officers.

This was one of the main reasons put forward by prosecutor Raymond Mathenjwa last week for the State opposing bail.

Dlamini said that not all the cases had been reported to the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) - the predecessor to IPID.

Since April 2012 police were obliged by law to report all deaths as a result of police action to IPID.

Prior to April, he said there was no obligation on the police to report matters to IPID or the ICD.

There was merely a memorandum of understanding between the police and the ICD, but this memorandum “had no teeth”.

He could not say how many of the murder cases pending against the officers had been investigated by the ICD.

“There needs to be an assessment first to say what went wrong. Is there evidence of such and then who needs to answer what? And then (determine) who attempted to defeat the course of justice by either their action or omission.”

Currently there were no investigations against ICD/IPID officers in terms of the Cato Manor unit, but he said that two IPID officers had been suspended “at some point”.

This had been a “precautionary suspension”.

During the bail hearing last week both Mathenjwa and National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga said that a further 16 murder charges would be brought against the men.

Mhaga said that as far as he knew, the NPA had not yet received applications for witness protection, but these applications could still be in the process of being drawn up.

Hawks spokesman McIntosh Polela could not immediately be reached for comment. - Sapa


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